Overhead shot interior of the student center big steps

DEI at the University of Kentucky

Inclusive excellence at the University of Kentucky continues to be a priority in colleges, units and departments across the community. This site highlights and celebrates all of the inclusivity work happening in our community initiated and driven by passionate staff, faculty and students. Here, you can learn more about the various initiatives, read about diversity-related news and efforts from all areas of the UK community and find a comprehensive list of resources and organizations that promote belonging.

Visit https://dei.uky.edu for more information.

Two women in a room sitting at a table

Community Health Workers make connections across Kentucky

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are front-line workers that serve as the bridge between our communities and the healthcare system. CHWs work across our state to achieve their role as connectors. With the goal of increasing the capacity of CHWs to support Kentuckians with disabilities, the Human Development Institute (HDI) has partnered with the Kentucky Office of Community Health Workers (KOCHW) to provide a series of trainings and interactive workshops on Universal Design (UD).*

 The statewide trainings were the result of lessons learned from previously hosted listening sessions. Insight from CHWs helped identify areas of need and allowed HDI to develop CHW-focused training on various disability and health topics. Training includes Disability 101, Disability and Health Resources, UD in Community Health Work, and Guardianship and Supported Decision-Making. HDI created the regional workshops to reinforce the inclusive principles of UD and empower CHWs to implement their learned inclusion strategies.

The workshops are hosted with KYOCHW’s regional meetings and engage CHWs to apply UD strategies to health messages, programming, and environments. The universally designed workshops feature numerous interactive activities focused on engaging participants to apply strategies to maximize accessibility and inclusion.

Workshop activities include:  

  • Jeopardy: Review content from previous trainings with a trivia styled game.
  • Role-play: Use supported decision-making to act out different community scenarios.
  • UD Redesign: Small groups work together to apply UD strategies to provide examples of inaccessible materials.
  • Social Media: After learning about the importance of UD and accessibility on social media, write alt text and image descriptions.
  • Adapted Physical Activity: Identify ways to modify exercises to be inclusive of the different ways people move their bodies.
  • Kitchen Equipment Demo: Try out different adaptive kitchen equipment that help empower individuals to prepare their own healthy food.

Strategically developed to promote the real-world application of UD by CHWs, the interactive experience from the workshops has been met with enthusiasm from KYOCHW and CHWs across the state. One participant noted, “I learned a lot about how to present information in different ways so that everyone is able to understand and have access.”  Many attendees have affirmed they will use UD to better communicate with their clients. One participant said they will share the experience from the workshop with their staff and encourage “them to follow this structure for work they are doing with clients.”

The four workshops have hosted over 120 CHWs from across the state.  Two workshops were held in western Kentucky at Kenlake State Resort Park and Barren River State Resort Park. The central regional meeting, which included CHWs from Lexington, Louisville, Frankfort, and beyond, was hosted at the Kentucky Historical Society. HDI staff joined KYOCHW in eastern Kentucky on August 24th (Pine Mountain) and will meet again for the final regional meeting on November 2nd (Jenny Wiley). If you are interested in attending a workshop, please contact the Kentucky Office of Community Health Workers.

* UD is Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning.

Voice bubble reading Take the Survey

HDI is Seeking Your Input for Our Five Year Plan

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute wants your feedback to improve our work. Every five years we write a new plan that guides what we do in our role as a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

We’ve put together a survey for you to tell us what we need to work on for the next five years about life in Kentucky for people with disabilities. How could it be better? What needs to change about education and employment, healthcare, housing, and transportation, advocacy, policy, and community support?

We need to hear from you. Please complete our 15 minute survey at: https://uky.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8tXsCRIEoRfNYeq

We’ll use your feedback in several important ways:

  1. Your feedback will be kept private. We will not share feedback or other information that could identify you.
  2. We will use all feedback received before February 2023 as we write our new plan.
  3. We will share a summary of what we learned on our website later this Spring.

At the end of the survey you can enter a raffle for one of multiple $20 gift cards.

If you would like support to complete this survey, email me at: kjone@uky.edu or cal 859-257-8104.

representations for models of all abilities clothing advertisement, photo of Ali Stroker for Aerie

Representation for Models of All Abilities in Clothing Advertisement

Written by Delaney Wickert

The popular athletic wear company Aerie has recently expanded their cast of clothing models to include individuals with a range of abilities. Aerie, a product of the popular clothing store American Eagle, has previously made strides in changing the culture of beauty representation in media through their promise to stop editing photos of their models wearing their clothing, in an effort to promote diversity and inclusivity of all body types. Aerie has continued to make efforts to represent diversity in their model campaigns through hiring models of all abilities to represent their clothing line. Their inclusion of these models shows visible disability representation throughout their brand. The company started a campaign in which they select a group of women who they name their “Role Models”. These women are selected who inspire positive change through their efforts, and make up a group of individuals stemming from diverse backgrounds, and possessing a range of abilities.

Previous Aerie Role Models who represent the disabled community have included Gold Medal Paralympian, Brenna Huckaby, a world champion snowboarder, included in the Aerie Role Models campaign in 2019. Brenna is commended for her fearlessness as she is a 3-time world champion snowboarder and mother, who has had to navigate losing her leg to cancer. Brenna uses her Role Model spotlight in order to encourage fearlessness, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone, as she believes mindset helps dictate success.

Molly Burke, a part of the 2020 Aerie Role Model Campaign, is a popular YouTuber and social media influencer who lost her sight at 4 years old. Molly is creating change through her motivational speaking and by sharing how she has overcome adversity in her life. Molly is committed to breaking stereotypes surrounding disability by sharing her lived experience on her social media platforms. Molly describes in her article on the Aerie website ‘“I’m making a difference by authentically sharing my story as a disabled woman, and not sugarcoating it or choosing to conform to the mold that people think I should fit.”’

Ali Stroker, a Tony Award Winning actress, and the first woman to use a wheelchair on Broadway, was also featured in the Role Model campaign. As a child, Ali always wanted to be a performer. Even though she had never seen someone using a wheelchair on Broadway, she decided to create that representation, and become a role model to those like her. Ali is now an accomplished singer and actress who inspires change on and off Broadway.

In addition to the Role Models Aerie highlights, they have also worked to represent women with visible disabilities and illnesses throughout all components of the advertisements, including models living with downs syndrome, insulin pumps, ostomy bags, wheelchairs, various support devices, and exhibiting a range of conditions such as fibromyalgia.

By showing visible disabilities and illnesses in their models, Aerie shows representation that many companies lack. Other brands have included multiple body types or gender expressions in their campaigns, however very little disability representation can be seen in clothing advertisements. Aerie’s inclusion of models ranging from all abilities, as well as highlighting those in the community who inspire positive change, help to set the precedent of disability representation in the modeling and advertising industry.

To get to know more about the Role Models mentioned visit:

Information About Breanna Huckaby

Information About Molly Burke

Information About Ali Stroker

Learn more about the Aerie Real Model campaign here.


Contributor. (2018, July 21). Aerie model brings national attention to ostomy awareness. United Ostomy Associations of America. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ostomy.org/aerie-model-brings-national-attention-to-ostomy-awareness/

Get to know #aeriereal role model Brenna Huckaby. #AerieREAL Life. (2019, April 25). Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ae.com/aerie-real-life/2019/01/31/get-to-know-aeriereal-role-model-brenna-huckaby/

Isabelle, Lizzie, & Collins, M. (2020, January 23). Ali Stroker, Tony Award winning actor. #AerieREAL Life. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ae.com/aerie-real-life/2020/01/23/ali-stroker-tony-award-winning-actor/

Kim, S. (2020, February 3). Aerie continues to include authentic disability representation -Ali stroker joins #AerieREAL role model family. Forbes.Retrieved October 27,2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahkim/2020/01/31/aerie-disability-representation/?sh=52520aeb50bd

Martha. (2020, January 23). Molly Burke, YouTuber & motivational speaker. #AerieREALLife. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ae.com/aerie-real-life/2020/01/23/molly-burke-youtuber-motivational-speaker/

Role models. #AerieREAL Life. (2021, August 17). Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ae.com/aerie-real-life/role-models/

Article photo of Dr. Kathy Sheppard-Jones

Time to Change Our Thinking About Disability in Kentucky – Kentucky.com Editorial by Kathy Sheppard-Jones

Kathy Sheppard-Jones, Ph.D., is executive director of the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI).

Roughly one in three people in Kentucky have a disability. Recent data found 75% of Kentuckians without disabilities are employed, compared to 32% of those with disabilities. Before COVID, 84% of Kentucky employers had job vacancies. Now the workforce itself is undergoing shifts, as workers quit their jobs, reimagining their worker-identity and work preferences, and restructuring their work-life balance.

However, we can bridge these gaps. Kentucky is an Employment First state, making competitive integrated employment the expectation for people with disabilities. This can build an inclusive workforce, if we are willing to meet the moment, and break the cycle of economic insufficiency for disabled Kentuckians.

Disability is a variable, not an outcome. Disability continues to have so much stigma attached to it, that we try to distance ourselves from it. For those of us who experience disability, it is part of who we are. Yet, we are continually reminded that disability is not valued. We try to minimize it. I had a conversation with a colleague who said, “I have a disability, but I hide it as best I can.”

Another colleague mentioned helping a family member find a job, remarking, “He’s ADA, but never brings it up, and isn’t going to be a problem for anyone.” The ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act. While this law is necessary and ensures basic rights of people in community, employment and public programs, it is often insufficient. By calling a person ‘ADA’, we de-humanize people and set the stage for adversarial encounters.

We must raise expectations about what is possible and what good careers look like from the earliest ages. It is never too late, but it is much easier to start planning for transition from school to work when we read to our children, and dream of what could be. Early childhood can be a time of wonder and exploration. Families need to be able to dream about the future too. It is up to us to share the stories of people who are working, living safely in their communities, and who have the supports needed to make choices about their lives.  

Let’s provide intervention to injured or ill workers at risk of leaving the workforce. Too often, it’s not the injury or illness that is the biggest issue. It’s the cascade of events that happen when one becomes disengaged from their job, loses their paycheck, and faces the resulting economic instabilities. We also must remember that many work tasks can be accomplished in different ways.

We have to stop equating disability with disability benefits. The presence of a disability does not mean that someone cannot work.

More likely, the supports for successful work are not available. There are many misconceptions about people who receive disability benefits. In reality, the systems where people find themselves are often broken, complicated, and siloed. People with disabilities are too often put on pipelines that are very different than the pipelines for talented, skilled workers. Education and training help advance careers. These avenues must be accessible, available and welcoming to all.

Consider this definition of inclusive workforce: An inclusive workforce is one in which the unique skills, contributions and diversity of qualified individuals, including those with disabilities, are actively recruited, valued, and integral for success. It is an environment where the engagement, development, retention and advancement of an increasingly skilled and diverse workforce is promoted and supported across all employment sectors and levels.

Let’s re-think what disability means. Let’s work together for a healthier, more robust, more inclusive workforce.

This article represents the opinions of the author and not that of the University of Kentucky. 

The article can be found at https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article268583417.html#storylink=cpy.